KABUL, AFGHANISTAN - SEPTEMBER 18: Zebulon Simantov reads his old tatered hebrew prayer book as he celebrates the Jewish New Year feast of Rosh Hashanah September 18, 2009 in Kabul, Afghanistan. Zebulon, 57, claims to be the last Jew living in the war-torn conservative Muslim country and says he keeps a Kosher home. The Jewish New Year, or Rosh Hashanah, coincides this year with Eid al-Fitr, a Muslim feast marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. Born in northwestern Herat, Simantov attended Hebrew school before moving to Kabul at age 27. In 1992, he fled to Tajikistan, fleeing from Afghanistan's growing violence, married a Tajik Jew and had two daughters. The family immigrated in 1998 to Israel, but he returned to Kabul two months later, leaving them behind. (Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)

(JTA) — Zebulon Simantov, the last remaining Jew in Afghanistan, has finally left the country for fear of persecution by the Taliban, an Israeli television channel reported.

Simantov, the 62-year-old former keeper of Kabul’s lone remaining synagogue, left the country for the United States in recent days with several other exiles, the Kan broadcaster in Israel reported Wednesday.

The report was based on information given by Moti Kahana, an Israeli-American businessman who said he was involved in the extraction along with Moshe Margaretten, a Jewish philanthropist from New York.

“Moshe Margaretten please take me to New York with God’s help,” Simantov said in a video. The trip is a five-day journey, according to the Kan report.

The Taliban, a radical Muslim group, took over Afghanistan last month after the United States pulled out of the country, where it has had a military presence since 2001. Several Jewish group immediately reached out to Simantov, offering to help him out of the country, but he initially had declined the offers, citing his desire to stay in his homeland and preserve the synagogue, in which he had lived.

Kahana had previously said Simantov demanded “personal funding” in exchange for leaving.

After Simantov rebuffed Kahana and Margaretten’s first offers for help, they helped evacuate dozens of other Afghans.

According to multiple reports, Simantov has for many years refused to allow his wife, who lives in Israel with their two daughters, to divorce him. In Orthodox Judaism, spouses may not divorce unless they both consent to the dissolution of their marriage. Spouses who are refused a divorce act, or get, are called “chained.”

Israeli rabbinical courts cannot declare a marriage void, but they can legally punish recalcitrant spouses with fines or even imprisonment.


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